The Daily Gamecock

Former band director to donate $1 million to school of music

School of Music will receive largest gift in 87-year history



James K. Copenhaver, who directed USC's bands for more than 30 years, announced he would donate $1 million to fund scholarships for band students. The money would generate about $50,000 for four scholarships per year awarded based on need, musicianship and academic success.

Copenhaver, 68, emphasized the need for such scholarships in an economy where funding cuts for the arts are frequent.

"Music students don't get full rides like in athletics," Copenhaver said. "I hope we maintain the arts."

The low-key ceremony Wednesday took place in a rehearsal room of the band building near Bates House that featured a five-student woodwind ensemble.

Standing next to the philanthropist, music school Dean Tayloe Harding boasted about Copenhaver's effect on musical education throughout the state.

"He's being modest," Harding said, after Copenhaver downplayed the impact he'd had at USC. "He's had an indirect impact on every public head band director in the state — that's hundreds."

Copenhaver, who served as USC director of bands from 1976 to 2010, has taught upward of 5,000 students in his career, Harding said, not including the thousands who have come through the summer clinic Copenhaver helped set up.

The gift will go into a fund already named after Copenhaver, which Copenhaver estimated already contains about $75,000 in donations from other music school alumni.

So where does a former band director get $1 million to give to his old school?

"The university must have paid me well," Copenhaver joked. "I don't have a wife or children; I've been married to my work all my life ... I always knew that was what I was going to do."

He hopes the scholarship endowment will pave the way for the future of the band and the music school.

"We hope it's inspiring to others and that it encourages people to come to the school," Copenhaver said, adding that he hopes his gift back to the school sets a precedent for others going through the program. "I hope others can match what I've given — collectively."